Digital Modeling of a Taphonomic Quarry Using GIS Software

CHADWICK, A. V., Dept of Geology, TURNER, L. E., Dept. of Mathematics and Physical Sciences, Southwestern Adventist University, Keene, TX 76059; and SPENCER, L., EHRC, 4736 Carberry Ck. Rd., Jacksonville, OR 97530.

We have applied GIS technology to a vertebrate taphonomic quarry site in eastern Wyoming in an effort to achieve an optimal level of data retention. We have accumulated high-resolution GPS data (± 1 cm) associated with each bone, then attached this data to digital images of excavated bones, rectifying the images to the GPS data in 3-space. Using this technique in the 3-D module of ESRI’s Arcview, we have reconstructed the quarry site in the computer, giving accurate representation to the absolute positions of excavated materials. The resultant maps can be viewed from any perspective in 3 dimensions.

Using off-the-shelf software, we are able to display the results of successive seasons’ work from each quarry site as a single image. We can view the site from various perspectives, analyze the orientation of long bones, look at the distribution of such things as tendons and teeth and evaluate the spatial relationship between bones suspected of belonging to the same animal. We have also been able to visualize the thickness of the bone layer, the number of bones per unit area, and the vertical profile of the bones in each site. The formidable learning curve for GIS software can be initially sidestepped by focusing only on procedures required for 3-D display.

One of the objectives of taphonomic quarrying is to preserve as much information from the quarry site as possible, not only for the purpose of present investigations, but so that questions can be asked of the data that may not have occurred to investigators at the time of the initial study. Virtual quarry reconstruction requires high standards for data acquisition and retrieval, thereby ensuring the possibility of future queries from different perspectives.

Paper presented at the SVP 2002 meeting, Norman, OK, Oct 2002.